Case Study

ERP Helps Drive Enrollment, Staff Development at Houston CC

Texas community college upgrades its ERP system and winds up with a more synchronous way to manage students and staff

The Houston Community College System had been using a PeopleSoft ERP system since 1998, but it wasn't until last year that the third-largest accredited community college system in the United States upgraded its campus collaboration and Web presence to create one streamlined process.

Serving 62,000 students, the community college purchased Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise Campus Solutions 9.0 in the fall of 2008 in order to improve and deliver more online services to current and prospective students. At the same time, HCC redesigned its Web site in a way that would allow its six individual colleges to maintain autonomy while working in a more "unified" manner.

For example, the Web site integrates with PeopleSoft to provide a simple process for enrollment, registration, and financial aid. "We've divvied up the ERP over our entire network," explained Bill Carter, vice chancellor of information technology for HCC. "Everything is centralized, from the instructional/training component to the finance and human capital systems."

Most recently, the college implemented an e-performance module that completes staff performance evaluations online. "My supervisors had the highest evaluation rate ever for the college, hitting over 90 percent evaluations," said Carter. The school is also using the solution's purchase requisition approval process and, in doing so, has eliminated the need to print purchasing requisitions and send them around for signatures.

"We do that all online now," said Carter. "Currently, we're in the process of putting in our time and labor system, which uses electronic time sheets. That should reduce all paperwork by 80 percent." HCC also uses PeopleSoft Enterprise Financial Management and Human Capital Management to process financial transactions for its six colleges and 7,000 employees.

Through HCC's new online payment option, 90 percent of students now pay online and--perhaps more importantly--on time. "Everything is automated," said Carter. "We don't send out bills to students, and we don't send out grades. They get everything through PeopleSoft, or via a functionality that's has been built through the ERP and other campus systems."

In the past, students had to apply through a different portal that was not integrated with the institution's payment and financial aid functions. Through the new system, those same students now gain access to enrollment and financial aid information through a streamlined process.

"Our goal is to reduce the number of people standing in front of the students and to instead put more functions online for the student--whose average age is 23 to 27 years old--to use to make his or her own decisions," said Carter, who added that the new Web-based system helped contribute to a 10 percent increase in enrollment for the spring 2009 semester. "Many of the students have jobs and families, and have more important things to do than stand in line on campus."

According to Steve Koporec, vice president, applications, Oracle Higher Education, more than 350 community colleges of all sizes are currently using Oracle applications. Campus Solutions is a suite of software designed to meet the changing needs of higher education institutions.

Other community colleges currently using Oracle applications include Fox Valley Technical College of Appleton, WI; Glendale Community College in Glendale, CA; Jones County Junior College of Ellisville, MS; Kentucky Community & Technical College System in Versailles, KY; and Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, WI.

"Community colleges are often more affected by market forces than other higher education institution segments," said Koporec. "Even as budgets shrink, their enrollments and constituent demands rise. To overcome these challenges, many are turning to Oracle to provide flexible, affordable software that helps them provide better service while reducing operational costs."

HCC, which has been using PeopleSoft since the system was in the beta testing phase, has ramped up its reliance on the solution over the last two years, according to Carter. "We've taken things to a higher level in terms of upgrading our student systems and building user confidence in the system," said Carter. "By pushing responsibility out to the users, we've freed up our IT staff to be able to work on new projects."

According to Carter, the institution's return on investment (ROI) expectations for the upgraded system have already been exceeded. "When you consider where we were two years ago, the results are astounding," said Carter. "The applications have helped us significantly increase enrollment and improve operational efficiency. We are only beginning to take advantage of all the process automation we can put in place to reduce costs--and deliver higher quality service to our students."

To community colleges looking to replicate HCC's success in using the ERP system, Carter said the pressure is on for such schools to become the "most dynamic higher-education institutions" in the United States. "Universities deal with a straightforward enrollment process, while ours is sporadic, diverse and involves all levels and walks of life," said Carter. "From a technology standpoint, we must be able to provide the services and resources that enable those students to be successful."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at bridgetmc@earthlink.net.

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